Peppernut Cookies (AKA Pfeffernusse): Bite-Sized Fun

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Sneak Preview: Peppernut Cookies (AKA Pfefernusse) are bite-sized cookies with a European heritage. Perfect for gift-giving or holiday parties.

Crunchy Gingerbread Bites in a bowl along with cookies packaged for gift-giving

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These cookies won the Star-Telegram Christmas cookie contest a while back. Or maybe it was second place. I’m not sure. Anyway, I printed the details and stuck them in my someday-I-want-to-try-this file.

When I heard our church needed cookies for the Christmas baskets we give to the older and less mobile members, I dug out this recipe. It was the perfect opportunity to experiment because I would have something to do with them besides stuff my face. They are tempting–sorta like, “I dare you to eat just one.”

Why these cookies make excellent gifts:

  1. They don’t crumble.
  2. They stay fresh and delicious for up to 3 weeks or can be frozen.
  3. No decorating required.

Are peppernuts and pfeffernusse the same thing?

Yes.  Peppernuts are the English translation of pfeffernusse. You can read about it on Wikipedia.

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These miniature sweets are some trouble, officially qualifying them as Christmas cookies. However, I’ve figured out if you want to be labeled a Christmas cookie, you must be either red, green, or labor-intensive.  Do you agree?

Now I’m not saying these cookies are difficult to make. On the contrary, they couldn’t be easier. It just takes a chunk of time to cut all those little pieces of dough. Don’t worry. The last tray only took about a third of the time of the first tray.

Ingredients and substitutions:

  • BUTTER: Butter gives these cookies an irresistible crispy, crunchy texture and a buttery taste. Since this recipe is probably a once-a-year treat, I would splurge and use nothing else.
  • SUGAR: Granulated sugar is best.
  • EGG: The recipe specifies a large egg.
  • DARK SYRUP: You have several possibilities: dark corn syrup, molasses, or date syrup.
  • FLOUR: My first choice would be unbleached all-purpose flour. Bleached all-purpose flour is a close second.
  • SPICES: The spices are important in this recipe. Even more important–make sure your spices are FRESH.
  • ANISE FLAVORING: The anise is optional, but characteristic of this cookie. I hope you can find it and use it.


How to make Peppernut Cookies:

  1. Whip room-temperature butter until light and fluffy. If your butter is frozen or refrigerator firm, try grating it to warm it up quick. Resist the urge to put the butter in the microwave. Melted butter will not become “light and fluffy.”
  2. Add the sugar and room-temperature egg. Continue to beat.
  3. Add the flour and spices in the order specified in the recipe.
  4. Preheat oven.
  5. Cut off a section of the dough and roll it into a pencil or rope shape. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut the rope into small pieces.
  6. Bake at 350˚ for 8-10 minutes.
portioning dough for peppernuts

Initially, I thought I would roll each little ball by hand.  HA! There must be about a thousand per batch. People eat them by the handfuls, so trying to make them look perfect is wasted energy.

grandsons making peppernut cookies

As it turns out, these cookies are entertaining for the grandkids to make. Perfection is not essential. They don’t need decorating. To top it all off, my grandson proclaimed the dough was delicious.

tray of Pfeffernusse

As you can see in the picture above, you will get all sizes. My answer to that was to sort them. We had four piles: Big, small, medium, and ugly (to be eaten by the family. Then we put all of one size in any one bag. Looks a touch more professional, I think.

grandsons sorting cookies for giving

To package them, I put about 3/4 cup of cookies in each cellophane bag (available at craft stores) and tied each package with red yarn. The labels and yarn came from Amazon.

preparing packages of peppernuts to give away/

FAQ about Peppernut Cookies:

Did you mean to roll the cookies in powdered sugar?

Powdered sugar is traditional in Germany, and maybe other places, too. If you want to do that, drop your warm cookies in a plastic bag containing a cup of powdered sugar. Gently shake it to distribute the sugar and pour the cookies onto a towel to dry. If your want the cookies to be thickly covered, repeat the process after the first coat of powdered sugar dries.

Can I make these cookies ahead of time?

Yes. Some people intentionally make them a month ahead of time, hoping the flavor will get better as they age a bit.

Can I freeze the baked cookies?

Yes, Double-wrap to prevent freezer burn.


If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! Paula

peppernuts

Peppernuts (Pfeffernusse) Recipe

These crispy bite-size cookies are reminiscent of gingerbread. Also known as Pfeffernusse.
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 9 mins
Total Time 1 hr 9 mins
Course Cookies
Servings 60 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of butter - 2 sticks (230 gr)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar - 300 gr
  • 1 egg - beaten (50 gr)
  • 2 tablespoons dark syrup - I used date syrup but dark corn syrup or molasses is also good
  • 3-1/2 cup all-purpose flour - 420 grams
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon anise flavoring - optional

Instructions
 

  • Whip room-temperature butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and egg and continue to beat.
  • Add remaining ingredients in order given.
  • Pull off small pieces of dough and roll to the thickness of a pencil. Slice into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces. Place on a cookie sheet covered with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  • Bake at 350˚F for 7-9 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Peppernuts (Pfeffernusse) Recipe
Serving Size
 
5 pcs
Amount per Serving
Calories
 
48
Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
3
g
5
%
Saturated Fat
 
2
g
13
%
Trans Fat
 
1
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Cholesterol
 
11
mg
4
%
Sodium
 
29
mg
1
%
Carbohydrates
 
5
g
2
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
2
g
2
%
Protein
 
1
g
2
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Author: Paula Rhodes
Course: Cookies
Cuisine: German
Keywords: German pfeffernusse recipegingerbread cookiespfeffernusse recipe
Like this recipe? Thanks for leaving a 5-star rating inside the recipe at the top! 🤩

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Recipe Rating




41 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    These look good, was trying to figure out wh
    at to take to the office “do” next week.

  2. These really are adorable little cookies… almost look like they are made for dolls!!!!
    Now I am curious about what recipe you submitted to the contest!

  3. The Café Sucré Farine says:

    How fun Paula! These look wonderful – I love almost anything German and Pfeffernusse is not exception – oh, and I do speak German but I love your new name!

  4. I can imagine how *tedious* these must be to make, rolling out each pencil strip of dough and then cutting it. The recipe does sound like it makes a lot of pencil strips!! Having said all that, all the effort would certainly be worth it as the quantities this makes is perfect for gift giving…lots of gift giving 🙂

    They look delicious.

  5. I just like to say Pfeffernusse…. must be the German in me.
    These look great and I am MAKING them this weekend. I am running out of time before Christmas, and these fill the bill. I had such high hopes for doing some Holiday recipes on my blog…. ::sigh::

  6. Love this recipe! I signed up for a baked goods swap and still had not decided what to mail out. this will be perfect and still have some for the kids at home!

  7. My husband’s Mennonite family has made this traditional Christmas cookie for years and for the twenty years we’ve been married I’ve made them annually. Some times I’ve rolled the dough flat and used a tiny cutter I received at kitchen product party making little flower and stars. Recently I saw a recipe on-line that suggested your roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick on a cookie sheet, score it in small squares and bake it, breaking apart the cookies once cool. I may try this method this year along with a batch of the traditional ones. I find the flavor reminiscent of chai tea. yummy!

  8. If going with the rolled pencil approach try putting the rolls in the freezer, (or out on the porch if you live in Canada as I do where the outdoors is one big freezer for 5 months of the year) prior to cutting them. It will help hold the shape of the little cookies and make them easier to handle.

    1. Shelly, Great suggestion about putting the dough “pencils” in the freezer. Seems like it would be easier although it’s not too difficult without doing that.

    2. I love reading the comment section before trying a recipe to make sure I don’t mess up and just because sometimes comments are entertaining! I’m in SW Ontario and from December until late February our porch is the fridge/freezer too!

      Thank you for the recipe Paula! I like your name for the it, but I think I’ll stick with Pfeffernusse! I’m not German. It just makes me smile!

      Merry Christmas!

  9. I made the recipe to a T, however, rolling the dough out was not a option as it kept crumbling. I had to form a “rope” with my fingers and then cut so they were more squarish. What did I do wrong? They did come out fantastic nontheless! What could I have added to soften it up without changing the final product? Thanks!

    1. Sherry, I do not roll mine out either. Just squish the dough together with your hands and roll into pencil shapes with your fingers just like you did. I do not roll out cookie dough–any cookie dough, unless it’s inside a ziplock bag. Just not my thing. Glad they turned out tasty.

  10. This was a family recipe and they are all kinds of yummy. They go great with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

  11. Mmmmm yum.
    In Holland we eat millions of these at Saint Nicolas on the fifth of December (and in the months leading up to it).
    Most of them are shop bought. Only the really lucky kids get home made ones likes these (and have fun helping their mums make them).

  12. Hello,
    I am brand new to your blog and tried 2 bread recipes today using
    my bread machine with great results!! I do have a question,
    is instant yeast the same as bread machine yeast?

    1. Rhonda, Yes, they are interchangeable in my recipes. pr

  13. Thank you Paula. I love your blog!

    1. Thanks Rhonda. Appreciate you stopping by.

  14. Geri Owen says:

    Regarding your Gingerbread Bites, do you use actual butter or crisco? Seems like when I make cookies like M&M or chocolate chip and use butter, they are too thin so I want to make sure that you are actually using butter. I want to make these right the first time! Thank you,
    Geri

  15. Thanks for sharing this recipe. My Grandma always made them and used a thimble to cut them out. Since they have anise, they were really never a favorite of mine, but I have great memories associated with them.

    1. A thimble? What a great idea! paula

  16. Nicole Ferrero says:

    My grandmother gave a similar recipe to my mother many many years ago. My mother has been making them for many years now, as long as I’ve been live I think(43) On thanksgiving we have a rolling party and they get done very quickly. It’s a great family fun time. And I charish it every year. Eating them slow so they will last most of the winter. They are delishious and crunchy. Love them!! By the way, they stay fresh a lot longer then three weeks, and still taste good. ;)?

    1. Nicole,
      I love the idea of a “rolling party”. What fun! Thanks for sharing.

  17. i made these one time last year and loved them so i decided to make them again but this time my dough is very crumbly i cant get it to stay together so i can roll them. what did i do wrong this time and how can i fix it. please help.

    1. Arlene,
      Since I didn’t watch you make them last year or this year, I’m at a loss as to what you did wrong. Perhaps you measured wrong? or left something out? Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

  18. Dumb question but when you say soda you mean baking soda right?

  19. 5 stars
    These look good, was trying to figure out wh
    at to take to the office “do” next week.

  20. I’ve been looking for a good recipe for these and ran across your blog. My German grandmother, who came over to America on ‘the boat’, used to make pfeffernusse every year. The online recipes for, supposedly authentic, pfeffernusse are all over the map. Going to give these a try as they are said to be crunchy, as Grandma’s cookies were. By the way, her’s were quite small cookies, but when helping her, I remember forming ropes of cookie dough that were more like the diameter of maybe a cigar, than a pencil, and then slicing them up, I suppose the size is optional 😉

    1. If you make these, I hope they turn out crunchy like your Grandmother’s cookies.

      1. I finally made these today, and they are indeed crunchy! The recipe is a keeper. When I first mixed up the ingredients, the dough was a bit too crumbly for forming ropes, so I added another egg, and all was well. Thanks Paula, and Merry Christmas!

        1. Merry Christmas to you, too.

  21. I had a Lutheran women’s group (with Germanic ancestors) make these and I’ve been searching for a similar recipe ever since. This looks more like what they made than anything else I’ve seen online.

    Quick question. Do you really use anise essential oil (food grade)? I read online that anise extract is 4X less potent, so 1/2 oil tsp= 2 tsp of extract. I’m assuming that 2 tsp would water down the dough. Have you ever made it with extract? Where do you get the anise oil? I’ve seen it in stores that sell essential oils, but never in the big box stores’ baking isles.

    1. I checked my cabinet to see exactly what I used. It’s called “Natural Anise Flavor” from BOYAJIAN. http://www.boyajianinc.com/bakingAnise.html It is not oil. I will correct the recipe.

      Thank you for writing to ask. Hope you get to make them and love them.

      1. Thank you for letting me know which anise flavoring you use. I made these (with extract) and have to say- they are absolutely delicious! Thank you so much for sharing this winning recipe! I’ll definitely bring it out again next Christmas! Now to check out the rest of your site! Thank you again!!!

  22. Hi….I am making the Crunchy Gingerbread Bites and it seems like I have way too much dough for your directions. I am making the ropes larger than a pencil but smaller than a cigar. I cut the pieces in 1/2 cuts and I will have way more than your “33 yield”…..Or did you mean with 3 servings for the nutritional directions that it is a 99 bite yield? Thanks…

    1. Hi Maggie,

      My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. We had our family Christmas yesterday, so I didn’t have a chance to respond.

      I can see how you got confused. Yes, the recipe makes approximately 100 little pieces but since there is no exact measuring going on, everybody will cut their cookies slightly differently so the number will vary. Only one little piece would be a small serving so I counted three.

      I’m curious. How many pieces did you get in the end. Did you count them? Hope they were good.

  23. Amanda Benson says:

    For some reason I don’t see the butter on the ingredients list, but I’ve made these every year for a while, so I know it’s been there in the past. Is it still there on your end?

    1. Hi Amanda,

      If you were standing here, I would give you a big hug for catching this. I updated this post over the summer, and somehow, the butter got deleted. I have corrected it. The recipe calls for 1 cup of butter.

    2. Amanda Benson says:

      @Paula, Haha…thanks so much! I’ll be making a couple batches this weekend! They’re so addicting! 🙂